Product Manager Podcast Interviews

Thaisa Fernandes
May 15 · 6 min read

Last year I decided to launch something totally out of my comfort zone. I created a podcast (and a companion blog) for which I interviewed Latinxs who work in tech. My intent was to demystify our careers and hopefully help Latinx and other underrepresented persons to join the tech sector.

I’m fortunate to have many friends, and all of them are so kind to share their time on the podcast. During those interviews, I talked with many tech leaders, including product managers, who shared their journeys, struggles, and secrets and served as an inspiration to us all.

I enjoyed learning more about their journeys. It was reassuring to hear how non-linear our path to product management can be, and that the different skills we previously developed add to our roles as product managers.

Transition to Product and Leverage the 80/20 Rule

A Senior Product Manager at Santander Digital in Palo Alto, Gretchen Rodrigues worked for a long time at eBay, where her last role was Senior Product Manager and Product Owner. She has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a Master’s in International Management. She also studied Design Thinking, UX Design, Data Analytics, and Neuroscience, among other things.

We asked her about her journey and role as Product Manager. We talked about Gretchen establishing herself in a new country, changing careers, using frameworks like Agile to improve life and work, and embracing the 80/20 rule.

Gretchen also shared amazing tips for folks who are transitioning to Product Management. She was nominated as one of the Latinx Product Leaders by Product School. Congrats, Gretchen, we’re so proud of you!

Tips to Becoming a Product Manager:

  • Be clear on why you want to be a Product Manager. Be sure, spend time thinking about it. It will probably take you more time than you think to write exactly why you want to be a Product Manager.
  • Find those people that can help you open doors, because sometimes opportunities are not even advertised. You will need to be in contact with the companies and people that will give you the opportunity, even though you might not have the experience.
  • Think about what else you can do on the projects on which you’re working to stretch yourself, feel more comfortable speaking product language, and learn.
  • Find that power even when you feel you don’t have it. If you need to take a break, take it. Be true to yourself, keep pushing. You will be very close to where you want to go, closer than yesterday.

Clawing Into Power While Making Space for Others

From her humble beginning, Valerie Villarreal made improbable leaps into the most competitive, elite universities and top tech employers. Currently, a Product Manager, Valerie has worked on the biggest social platforms of our time, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. As an intern at Amazon in 2011, she got her first taste of building and growing user products that scale to millions (and billions) of users globally.

Valerie came into Product from a non-traditional, non-technical background, starting her career right out of school in management consulting at McKinsey and Company, where she advised executives. She earned her MBA and her BA in Political Science from Stanford.

In this episode, we had discussions about coming from a humble background, clawing your way to break into power, and using it to make space for others. Valerie also demystified the role of a Product Manager, we talked about why Product Management can be a powerful and natural function for Latinxs.

Become an Advocate for Inclusion:

  • Understand the game pieces. Understanding the decision-makers can help you to become an advocate for inclusion. Uplift others, whether senior allies, sponsors, or junior, contract, or contingent workers.
  • Gain influence and political capital. Put points on the board and serve the business goal, then start taking risks, making investments, thinking like an entrepreneur or investor. Don’t think only like an employee anymore.
  • Talk about money. Discuss compensation, equity, level equity, and progression with your manager. Talking about money is evolution.
  • Pursue a career of meaning. Work backward to create goals for corporate retirement, and graduate to pursuing a career of meaning. Think also about creating boundaries of self-care to make it sustainable.

Helping People Land a Job in Product Management

The Founder and CEO of Product School, Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, is a global leader in product management with a community of over one million of product professionals. Carlos has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Industrial Management, and Computer Science. He also studied Global Business Management and Marketing at UC Berkeley.

We invited Carlos to our podcast because he has an interesting journey — building global companies and digital products, which is a subject we wanted to bring to our podcast. Technically, Carlos is not Latinx, but Hispanic since he is from Spain, and we think we share a lot of similarities with each other.

We talked about his journey, entrepreneurship, and of course Product Management. Carlos also shared with us some free product management resources you can learn from which is super exciting.

Free Resources Recommendations:

  • The Product Book: How to Become a Great Product Manager became a bestseller on Amazon and can be downloaded for free on their website or if you’re a Kindle Unlimited user.
  • Product Management podcast: Featuring PMs from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify, Twitter, and other tech companies and startups.

Cloud-Based Solutions and Machine Learning

Alma Lopez studied Computer Engineering and has a Master’s of Science degree in Data Science. Alma is a Latinx in Power because she’s a successful Product Owner at Roche who works with cross-functional teams on a cloud-based solution that leverages Machine Learning to help in the research and development of drugs to fight cancer. She previously worked as a Software Design Expert and as a consultant.

We had an inspiring conversation about how machine learning and cloud-based solutions can help in the fight against cancer. We talked about the importance of negotiation skills and how communication is critical to better negotiation.

Alma mentioned how negotiation is also about hearing people, and often we don’t hear and listen to people anymore. In this episode, we also learned about Alma’s journey from Mexico as a computer engineer and her evolution to product owner.

How Machine Learning Can Help the Fight Against Cancer:

  • Alma is able to contribute her technical skills to the fight against cancer. Her team works with a tool used by researchers, pathologists, data scientists, and imaging scientists to develop and test machine learning algorithms on digital pathology images to identify cancer cells.
  • The images generated are scans of stained tissue slides stored in the cloud. The tool has a user interface that allows image display and manipulation.
  • Pathologists can review and identify tumor areas and other types of tissues, make comments, and apply machine learning algorithms to generate data used by data scientists to generate results.
  • Images are taken in clinical trials after the results are generated so researchers can make decisions on the drug development. Alma loves opportunities that allow her to make the world better.

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